Kiki Penoyer helps Amanda Bynes go undercover to dismantle the patriarchy from within with She’s the Man.
Ten years ago, there was nothing cuter than Amanda Bynes, the absolute It-Girl of the early 2000s and a bright beacon in a dark world for those of us who were going through puberty very poorly. Something about her off-beat Nickelodeon charm spoke to a generation of girls who knew we weren’t Disney Star material, and nowhere did this shine brighter than in future cult classic She’s the Man.
For those of you who very sadly missed out on this one in the sea of endless mid-2000s upbeat teen comedies, She’s the Man is an (albeit pretty loose) adaptation of Twelfth Night, but with teenagers and soccer instead of mid-20-somethings and…whatever it is all these people in Twelfth Night do for fun. When I first saw this movie, I was an awkward teenager who knew a lot about The Amanda Show and nothing about Twelfth Night, so I was probably exactly the kind of person for whom this film was made. For purposes of this rewatch, I am a slightly-less-awkward adult staring down the barrel of entering my late 20s on Monday, and I know a lot about what happens to Amanda Bynes after this movie is made, and Twelfth Night and I have a complicated relationship thanks to a lot of bad scene work in theatre school.
But honestly, who doesn’t want to watch a movie where Amanda Bynes goes undercover in an attempt to dismantle the patriarchy from within?
She’s the Man jumps right to the plot: Viola (Amanda Bynes) is a powerhouse soccer player at Cornwall High School—that is, until The Patriarchy shuts down the girls’ soccer team, and Coach McDouche won’t let any of them join the boys’ team because apparently girls are shittier athletes. Amanda appeals to her Toolbag Goalkeeper boyfriend, who admitted yesterday that she was “probably better than half the guys on the team,” (“Maybe more than half,” Amanda replies sweetly, reminding him—and us—that she’s not here for your bullshit and will not have her accomplishments diminished by your assumptions about her gender) but Toolbag refuses to stick up for her and laughs with the other boys that girls aren’t good enough at sports.
Amanda responds by promptly dumping him and beaning him the face with her soccer ball. I can tell already that I’m going to love this movie just as much as I did in 2006.
Not wanting to waste any time (seriously, we’re like maybe five minutes into the movie) we receive the entire rest of the setup: Amanda is mistaken from behind for her twin brother, Sebastian (whose real name, shit you not, is James Kirk), Amanda’s mother demands that Amanda attend a Debutante Ball but Amanda is too busy dismantling the patriarchy to deal with this shit, and Sebastian is running away to London for two weeks to do some kind of rock star teen thing that I didn’t really understand—right before he’s meant to transfer to Illyria High School, which (wouldn’t you know it?) is Cornwall’s biggest rival in soccer.
I’d forgotten how fast movies used to move in that era, because I’m pretty sure Twelfth Night took a lot longer to get us this much info, but Amanda has a lot of men to step on in her climb to the top, so she’s not here to wait around. She quickly concocts a plan to dress as Sebastian, infiltrate Illyria’s soccer team, and kick Cornwall’s ass, to prove to Coach McDouche that girls are to be taken seriously as athletes—to do this, she’s going to need guitar-powered montage of haircuts and Manwalking, which I’m pretty sure is just Amanda Bynes having fun with props and strangers as only Amanda can.
First day at Illyria High School, and we meet pretty much the best thing ever: Baby Channing Tatum! He has no idea he’s going to be the most famous man on the planet in just a few short years! Look at how adorable he is! I just wanna squish his little baby Channing Tatum face!
Amanda defuses America’s collective sexual awakening by instructing her new roommates how to stop nosebleeds by putting tampons in your nose, and to be honest, this sounds like a great idea—has anyone ever tried this?
On to the real reason we’re here: Illyria’s soccer team, coached by Gareth from Galavant, and yes, he’s literally exactly what you would expect from Coach Gareth—gruff as fuck but ultimately the best: when Amanda announces that she must keep her shirt on during practice because she is “allergic to the sun,” Coach Gareth barks some guff at her but doesn’t push the issue and never brings it up again, because he’s the only gym teacher in the world who cares about your needs as a person.
Tobias Funke is the principal of Illyria High School, which goes exactly how you expect it will. I’m not sure of his function in the story or which character in Twelfth Night he’s meant to be, but honestly, all the supporting characters are getting pretty fuzzy by now because we didn’t really want to commit to the Shakespeare thing all the way through. There’s about half a dozen friends of Amanda and BCT that have yet to be named, but they’re probably some combination of Mariah/Sir Toby/Antonio/Whathaveyou.
On her way out of Principal Funke’s office, Amanda smacks into a hot blonde girl named Olivia, and experiences teenage sexual tension. I’m instantly regretting that this movie isn’t about Amanda Bynes discovering men are the worst and embracing her bisexuality, because while I am all about Baby Channing Tatum, I feel this would’ve been a way more interesting twist on the story. But maybe that’s just me.
The boys start doing that thing that boys do when there aren’t women around: being fucking gross about women. To his credit, Baby Channing Tatum refuses to participate, because he’s ~*different*~ but still doesn’t do a lot to derail the discussions his friends are having. You have a lot of work to do, Baby Channing Tatum. But he does spend a lot of time wearing boxers that are clinging to his hips like Sly Stallone in Cliffhanger.
i.e. not well.
Unlike how I felt actually watching Cliffhanger, I’m far from disappointed. (Ed. Cliffhanger rules and John Lithgow will get you yet, Kiki.)
In what proves to be the most unexpectedly terrifying scene in the movie, four men arrive in the middle of the night and kidnap Amanda and take her to a dark room, where all the new soccer players are instructed to take off their clothes for a hazing ritual. As a teenager observing this, I remember thinking “Shit, Amanda, how are you gonna get out of THIS wacky happenstance?” (answer: pulling a fire alarm and crawling out a side door, which is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card of teen media.) As an adult, I got SUPER uncomfortable—being a teenage girl and being dragged from your bed by masked strangers bigger than you who demand you get naked in front of them IS FUCKING TERRIFYING. I’ve never been a boy, so I can’t speak to how scary that would be for them, but as a girl, I found this scene pretty disturbing, and am amazed that Amanda was chill around these guys the next day, rather than feeling terrified that her friends gave so little of a shit about her bodily autonomy. Maybe it’s because she knows she’s about to detonate a truth bomb so big it will rattle the very core of their Masculinity. But I probably would’ve never spoken to a single one of those assholes again tbh.
But then comes what is probably the most HOPELESSLY MISGUIDED part of the movie: In order to prove her worth to shitty boys, Amanda gets her friends to participate in a montage of hot women hitting on her, to prove to these guys she has ‘game.’ Okay, fine, this is dumb, but whatever. It works, and Baby Channing Tatum and co. are instantly changing their tune—until Sebastian’s real-life girlfriend Monique shows up, and they get gross at her. Monique responds with the best comeback of all time: “Girls with asses like mine do not date boys with faces like yours.” TEAM MONIQUE 2K16.
Unfortunately, Amanda has proven in scenes past that she hates Monique for reasons unknown (so far all she’s done is stand up for herself and wear pink, but everyone is being super rude to her?) As part of her Manly Man persona, Amanda must humiliate her in order to continue participating in the patriarchy, and Monique is heartbroken. As am I. I’m on your side, Monique. You deserved better than what happened to you today. But you made the mistake of being the hot strawberry-blonde in a mid-2000s teen film, which means you’re the bad guy for some reason. Your day will come, girl.
Amanda is now ‘in’ with the dudes, and she gets exactly what we’d expect: men being gross about girls, mansplaining, and waggling their penises in her face. Amanda reacts appropriately by hating all of them, and only hanging out with her lab partner, Hot Blonde Olivia from earlier. But all the bubbling chemistry sets in the world can’t show Amanda how to deal with the chemistry she has with Olivia, whose heart she breaks by blurting out that she’s not into her. </3 Team Violivia 2K16.
SURPRISE! Sebastian and Viola are BOTH expected at some kind of carnival thing! Says Amanda’s mom! I have no idea what the carnival is for, but both Cornwall and Illyria kids are going! And Olivia and Viola are both signed up to run the kissing booth BY THEIR MOTHERS which is hella gross and a great way to catch herpes! Over the next ten minutes, Amanda participates in some Mrs. Doubtfire costume-change hijinks, Channing Tatum offers to drown in Toolbag Boyfriend’s male tears, Amanda Bynes falls in love with Baby Channing Tatum, and Monique continues to refuse to stand for this treatment. For a plot point that makes no sense, there’s a lot of great shit happening here.
Thanks to Channing Tatum’s ‘How to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ montage, Amanda is now hella good at Bicycle Kicks, so Coach Gareth bumps her up to first string; she celebrates as anyone would, which is attempting to touch Channing Tatum’s butt. Olivia decides to make Amanda Bynes jealous by asking Channing Tatum out. It works, but not the way she wants. I’m feeling the way about this movie I did throughout both Pitch Perfects: the heterosexual lead couple isn’t NEARLY as interesting as the obvious lesbian undertones between the leading lady and her new hot best friend.
Amanda, Olivia, and Monique are all apparently part of this Debutante ball thing, which makes this the second Amanda Bynes film in three years where her being a reluctant debutante is a major part of the plot (for further study, please see the spectacular Cinderella story What a Girl Wants, starring Amanda and Colin Fucking Firth in Leather Fucking Pants.) Amanda’s mom is super into it, but Amanda isn’t: “I will not wear heels. Because heels are a male invention designed to make a woman’s butt look smaller. And to make it harder to run away.” You tell ‘em, Amanda.
This scene ends in a horrible pastel catfight in the bathroom where everyone gangs up on Queen Monique, but I only bring it up because of this moment, which I had forgotten about, which made me laugh so hard I startled two cats off my lap and choked on my beer.
Olivia speaks to whatever random side character this is supposed to be (we’ve stopped giving people names so we don’t have to admit we didn’t read the play) and decides she needs to just kiss Sebastian on the face and admit that she loves him—that won’t be bad, right? EXCEPT THAT ISN’T AMANDA BYNES, IT’S CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK, THE REAL SEBASTIAN, AND BABY CHANNING TATUM SAW AND NOW HE’S SUPER SAD AND SAD CHANNING TATUM IS VERY HARD TO WATCH. Poor precious baby. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really ‘Get’ Channing Tatum before rewatching this movie, but having seen it a second time, I totally understand what everyone’s been going on about. He is a precious baby bunny and deserves to be protected from sadness and teenage angst.
James T. Kirk has no idea what’s going on, but decides to just go along with this new world order, including participating in the Big Soccer Game Against Cornwall because Amanda didn’t wake up on time for some reason. James T. Kirk is a shitty soccer player, but he’s too good-natured to work out what’s happening, and is subsequently benched; Amanda is furious, particularly once Principal Funke arrives with a megaphone and accuses him of being a girl, at which point James T. Kirk flashes his wang at a stadium full of people he’s just met, because fuck you for attempting to out a person in public.
Amanda is dying behind the stands, so at half time, she angrily switches outfits with her brother and heads to the pitch, where Coach Gareth is skeptical but breaks the rules of soccer by allowing a benched player back onto the field; I don’t think the ref is watching the same game I am, because Baby Channing Tatum earns several red cards by assaulting Cornwall players off the ball and no one calls him on it. Apparently the ref hates Cornwall and doesn’t give a shit if you abuse them. Apparently Cornwall is the Seattle Sounders of this world. I’m just saying.
Due to Monique’s effective and underappreciated indictment of the patriarchy, Amanda is forced to reveal at last her true identity—by, of course, nonchalantly flashing her boobs and demanding everyone shut the fuck up, at which point Coach Douche demands that we forfeit the game because there’s a lady on the field. Coach Gareth rips a sports manual in half and demands an end to sexism on his soccer field, because he’s the fucking best.
What follows is actually some pretty legit soccer—like, not Bend It Like Beckham good, but still pretty legit. No one gives a shit that Amanda is a lady, because her dismantling of the patriarchy has succeeded, and her teammates are cool now. Amanda Dares to Zlatan and bicycle kicks the shit out of the winning goal, and everyone celebrates, except Toolbag Boyfriend who does what all shitty rejected boys do: crying hysterically while screaming insults at her and accusing the world of injustice. Amanda dgaf and rises above his nonsense, introducing James T. Kirk to Hot Olivia, who decides quashing her budding sexuality is more important than her indignation over having been deceived, because she runs off with him immediately to escape her feelings for Amanda Bynes. </3 RIP Violivia.
On the day of the Debutante Ball, Mom has decided she also wants to dismantle the patriarchy: “You don’t need a man to wear a beautiful dress,” she announces, and I’m pretty into it. Amanda wanders off alone into some spooky woods to deal with her budding sexuality over seeing Olivia all dolled up. She runs into Baby Channing Tatum, who admits he misses his new best friend, because it turns out actually being friends with a girl can be a lot of fun, and admits that he probably would’ve been shittier to her if he’d known she was a lady, because Men are the Absolute Worst. Amanda forgives his sweet, stupid self, and they live happily ever after, presumably, now that Amanda has converted him and all his friends to feminism.
Honestly, this movie wasn’t what I was expecting on a second watch. I sort of thought it would be a night of “Awww, I remember liking this when I was younger, but oof, the mid 2000s were a weird time.” But actually, I think I like this movie BETTER than I did the first time. There’s a lot of Grade A feminism going on in this movie, a lot of which I was too young to really appreciate when I first saw it—and there’s also some Grade A Patriarchal Bullshit happening, i.e. our horrific treatment of Monique, which I was also too young to understand at the time. Apparently these screenwriters didn’t learn enough from then-recent smash hit Mean Girls.
But we can still appreciate everything that’s good about this movie: It stands up for girls who want to do things that boys have decided are just for them (i.e. sports). Amanda Bynes showed us that you can be a badass tomboy and rock a hot party dress any time you want, which was an inspiration to all of us who were awkwardly hiding under our baggy jeans and Denver Broncos hoodies. The film itself is very funny in a mostly good-natured way, with the majority of the humor coming from Amanda Bynes being a naturally hilarious person. The main romance, while kind of a boring choice compared to the cute lesbian couple we could’ve had, is still touching and encouraging—I mean, she mails him a wheel of fucking gouda cheese to invite him to the Debutante Ball, because of a cute inside joke they had earlier, and if that doesn’t encourage all the off-beat personalities of the world to pursue love however they see fit, I don’t know what does. Baby Channing Tatum is fucking precious. There is a lot about this movie that is lovable.
She’s the Man is still just as good as, if not better than, it was 10 years ago. If you’re looking for two hours of joyful mid-2000s antics—and a critical discussion of depictions of feminism in modern cinema—I would highly recommend giving it another go. Be prepared to hear a lot of songs you’ll cringe over, remembering how often you listened to them on your iPod Shuffle (there are at least two All-American Rejects songs in the last 20 minutes alone), but if you can get past that, you’re in for a delight.
It’s worth noting that my COMPLETELY LEGITIMATELY OBTAINED copy of this film came hard-coded with Swedish Subtitles, so I got to learn a lot of fun Swedish slang. And I still enjoyed the shit out of this movie. Go Redbox this shit.